LAHORE - Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s struggle for what he calls civilian supremacy has intensified confrontation between the PML-N and various state institutions – and caused his second ‘martyrdom’ during the last 18 years.

In October 1999, the then prime minister was confronting the army and now he is simultaneously taking on the judiciary and the army. The statements recently made by the army chief on various occasions appear to be in response to Mr Sharif’s allegations and complaints, a clear indication of the ongoing war between the two sides.

This is the ‘progress’ the country has made with respect to civilian supremacy in about two decades.

And since the major political forces were not and are not with the PML-N for this cause, it may be safely assumed that the dream of the kind of supremacy Mr Sharif wants will not materialise in the foreseeable future.

Speculations are, however, being made about the shape of things to come, with some writers predicting that a technocrats’ setup is in the offing which would rule the country for three years. Some media reports suggested recently that presidential system could be introduced in the country as the parliamentary system has failed to deliver.

Let’s go through Mr Sharif’s moves of the past two decades and the results they yielded.

In October 1999, there was yawning mistrust between then prime minister (Nawaz Sharif) and then army chief (Gen Pervez Musharraf). Having forced Gen Jehangir Karamat to resign as army chief a year before, Mr Sharif wanted Gen Musharraf to behave like his predecessor. However, this did not happen. The army chief was convinced that the prime minister was waiting for an opportunity to take some action against him. He had taken all precautionary steps to deal with any adverse situation to be created by the prime minister.

The government, on the other hand, was taking some confidence-building measures to remove Gen Musharraf’s apprehensions. It was in such an atmosphere that the prime minister’s father – Mian Muhammad Sharif – invited Gen Musharraf and his spouse to their Raiwind residence. (It, however, did not remove Gen Musharraf’s fears).

Simultaneously, top government functionaries, including Chaudhry Nisar, on whose advice Gen Musharraf had been appointed as COAS, was trying along with some other party leaders to convince the general that the government had no designs against him. To add weight to his words and convince the general that he was very valuable for the government, Gen Musharraf was also given the office of the chairman joint chiefs of staff committee, a rare honour to an army chief.

It was in such an atmosphere that Gen Musharraf paid an official visit to Sri Lanka. At the end of the visit he was returning to Pakistan and was in the air when the prime minister removed him as COAS and appointed Gen Ziauddin as his successor.

Since Gen Musharraf’s colleagues were already prepared to deal with any such eventuality, they refused to accept Gen Ziauddin as the new boss. As a result, the PML-N government was overthrown. Other consequences that the Sharifs had to face are part of history.

The prime minister had not taken even senior party leaders into confidence before proceeding against Gen Musharraf. This became clear when the writer (then working for another English language newspaper) approached Raja Zafarul Haq to seek his reaction to the premier’s action. “If Gen Musharraf has been removed as army chief, he still remains the chairman joint chiefs of staff committee,” replied the man who is among the senior most party leaders.

The PPP learnt a lesson from the policies of the PML-N government and the situation they had to face.

The PPP government completed its 2008-13 tenure by obeying both the judiciary and the army.

The PML-N government somehow completed more than four years in power after the 2013 elections

However, the disqualification of Mr Sharif as prime minister in Panama papers case created a new situation in the country.

Nawaz Sharif started a war against the judiciary for delivering a verdict which was unexpected for him. And convinced that the army was behind the July 28 decision, the PML-N leaders also started attacking the khakis, at times indirectly.

No other major party is supporting the PML-N on the subject.

The former prime minister made a number of statements after his disqualification, critical of both the institutions. While the judiciary is not supposed to make statements to offer its point of view, the army chief’s statements on various occasions do give the military’s point of view.

On August 5 the former prime minister reached Islamabad from his Murree residence. In a statement that day he said that the ‘game’ going on at present is not in Pakistan’s interest. “Will any court punish a dictator?” he said, implying that he is being singled out at a time Gen Musharraf has not been held accountable despite the fact that cases are pending against him.

The same day COAS Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa said in a statement that Pakistan will soon be a peaceful country where nobody would be above the law. Clearly, this statement was made in response to the former PM’s ‘grievance’.

On Aug 6, the former prime minister said people have not accepted the court decision against him. He further said he knows what is in store for him, but he would expose the conspiracy against him.

On August 7, Mr Sharif talked to journalists and party leaders at the Punjab House. He said decision to disqualify him had been taken first and the justification found subsequently. “Is it fair for five ‘people’ to play with the mandate of the electorate? This is unfair”.

The same day the army chief said at a corps commanders’ conference that the army would work with all institutions for the supremacy of the law and the Constitution.

On August 11 while addressing a rally (that Mr Sharif led to Lahore) at Gujrat and Gunjanwala that his case is in people’s court. “Will you support me?”

The might is right principle is not on, he asserted.

On Aug 12, he said in Lahore that the verdict against him would have been the same no matter what else he had done (arguments offered). “If I move the world court, the verdict would be struck down in a minute.”

He further said that ‘a few people’s monopoly’ would have to be brought to an end in a country of 200 million people. This was a clear reference to the judiciary.

On Aug 14, he said after visiting the mausoleum of Allama Iqbal that the country had dismembered for not honouring the popular vote in 1971. Let’s ensure such a tragedy doesn’t happen again, he said.

On August 25, the former prime minister said the nexus between power and judiciary would have to be severed.

On October 3, the former prime minister said in Islamabad that no lesson has been learnt from the fall of Dhaka. Criticising the judiciary, he said the breach of Constitution was validated and the judges took oath of allegiance at the hands of such people.

The same day the corps commanders met in Rawalpindi for more than seven hours, but no statement was issued about decisions taken. The ISPR’s silence led to various speculations and rumours.

On October 5, the ISPR director general addressed a news conference and said no individual was more important than the institutions. This was clearly a message to the former prime minister. As regards Mr Sharif’s complaint that no lesson had been learnt from the Dhaka, Gen Asif Ghafoor said “If you look back, then there are 70 years. One should look into successes of the last 15 years and improvement in the security situation. If anybody continues looking back, they will continue doing so while hurling blames.”

The confrontation between the PML-N and various institutions doesn’t bode well for the country.